The Ocean Hill Brownsville School Controversy

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The Ocean Hill Brownsville school controversy was a case study of race relations during the 1960’s. This predominantly black area wished to have jurisdiction over their schools’ operations and curricula. In 1967, the superintendent of schools granted Ocean Hill Brownsville “community control” of their district. The Board of Education’s action was part of a new decentralization policy that wanted to disperse New York City’s political powers locally. Once in place, the Unit Administrator, Rhody McCoy, fired several teachers inciting one of the most profound racial standoffs in the city’s history. The evolution of the national civil rights movement parallels the changing attitudes of blacks involved in Ocean Hill Brownsville. In addition, evidence of differing theories concerning assimilation to the American ethnicity is portrayed through the actions of the participants. In 1954, The Brown vs. The Board of Education decision made segregation in schools illegal. New York City’s attempt to integrate the schools was unsuccessful, leaving them more segregated than before.(Podair 30) By 1966, New York City’s black communities were unhappy with the Board of Education’s control of their school districts because of its repeated unsuccessful attempts at integration. Many white groups, like the Parents and Taxpayers Organization, were also frustrated with the current system and called for “The Neighborhood School.” It was their discontent that motivated the community control of the Ocean Hill Brownsville school district. Because of the city’s civil rights movement and their support from many influential people and groups, the district was granted control .(Podair 82) Milton Galamison, a local black leader, was an educated reverend that believed integration was the key to equality. He successfully convinced the Board of Education to institute the “Open Enrollment” plan in 1960. Under this policy, black students in over crowded institutions would have an opportunity to attend under utilized white schools. Three years later, because of the plans ineffectiveness, the “Free Choice Transfer” plan was initiated, allowing for an increased amount of school choices and the remapping of districts. Again, these attempts were futile, causing the black community to explore alternate options. The white groups’ resistance to integration was the reason for subsequent political action to ensure its demise. All across the country, the words of Martin Luther King and the successful integrations of southern colleges were the examples that guided the actions of local civil rights movements. During King’s “I have a dream” speech, he said, “the Negro dream is rooted in the American dream.

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